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Semlor Polar Bear Buns
December 2020
Reading time 10 minutes
In Sweden, semlor buns are usually served right after Christmas in the run-up to Lent, but this is a Christmas version of the traditional cream-filled yeasted bun, and as they’re so tasty they deserve to be eaten more often.
  • For the dough:
  • 120ml milk
  • 50g butter
  • 120ml water
  • 1 large egg
  • 65g caster or granulated sugar
  • 500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g fast-action dried yeast
  • oil, for oiling
  • For the almond paste/marzipan filling:
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¾ tsp amaretto
  • For the cream filling:
  • 500ml double cream
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • Plus
  • extra egg to brush on top before baking
  • To decorate:
  • 16–20 strawberries, halved
  • grey fondant
  • Half quantity of Royal Icing
  • black gel food dye
  • For the Royal Icing:
  • 40g egg white
  • 225g icing sugar
  • plus extra egg white and icing sugar to adjust and get the right consistency

These buns are so adorable you won’t be able to bear eating them, but at the same time they are delectable, so it’s sure to be a polarising decision. If you don’t have time to make the almond paste, then use shop-bought marzipan instead.

  1. Heat the milk in the microwave until tepid, then melt the butter. Add all the wet ingredients to a large bowl or stand mixer and whisk together. Add the caster sugar and whisk again to combine, then add the flour, cardamom, salt and yeast (on opposite sides of bowl to the salt). If using a stand mixer, just attach the dough hook and let the machine knead for eight minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. If working by hand, first use a spoon to stir the wet and dry ingredients together until it comes together into a rough ball of dough, then turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand until it is smooth and elastic.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Leave to rise at room temperature for one to two and a half hours until about doubled in size. The time for this will vary depending on the temperature of the room. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set aside.
  3. When the dough has risen, divide it into individual balls, each one about 45–50g. Use your hands to shape each one so that it is smooth and taut on top, by stretching the dough and tucking it neatly underneath. Place on the prepared baking sheet and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Leave to prove for one hour, or until almost doubled in size and when pressed with a finger the indent slowly comes back up halfway. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 halfway through the rising time of the buns.
  4. When the buns have risen, brush with beaten egg and bake for 15–20 minutes until deep golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the almond paste. Stir the icing sugar and ground almonds together in a large bowl. Add the egg white, almond extract and amaretto, if using, and stir together until it forms a paste. Set aside for now.
  5. When the buns are cool, whip the double cream with the icing sugar and vanilla bean paste to soft peaks. Transfer the majority of the cream to a large piping bag and cut a large opening. Transfer the remaining cream to a small piping bag and cut a small opening. Cut the tops of the buns off and scoop out two teaspoons of the insides. Spoon one teaspoon of the almond paste into the bottom of each bun, then use the large piping bag to pipe cream into the bun. Top with a strawberry (use the bottom end) to look like a Christmas hat. Shape a small piece of grey fondant and place it on the cream to represent a polar bear’s nose area.
  6. Next, make the Royal Icing, then stir in enough black food dye to achieve the right colour. Use a stand mixer (or handheld electric whisk) fitted with a balloon whisk attachment to combine the egg white and icing sugar until you get a smooth consistency. Then add tiny amounts of extra egg white and/or icing sugar to get the right consistency. Add food dye to colour as desired! That’s it! 
  7. Transfer to a piping bag and cut a very small tip. Use this to add the polar bear’s eyes and nose. Use the smaller piping bag of cream to add the polar bear’s paws and a dot to the end of the Christmas hat. Repeat with all the buns.

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